North Carolina’s All-Decade basketball team unsurprisingly ACC-heavy

Zion Williamson was the National Player of the Year at Duke last season despite missing time with an injury. (Chris Seward / AP Photo)

The past 10 years were an eventful decade for college basketball in North Carolina.

There were three national championships, one memorable near miss, an NCAA investigation survived by North Carolina and another one that’s still ongoing involving NC State. It’s a decade in which Duke’s Mike Krzyzewski became the winningest coach of all-time while UNC’s Roy Williams matched the victory total of his mentor and fellow Hall of Famer Dean Smith.

The 2010s were also a time of great individual performances and unforgettable players, some of which actually stayed more than one season. Here is a look at the best of the best in the North State Journal’s state college basketball All-Decade Team:

Center — Jahlil Okafor (Duke): Okafor was the centerpiece of the nation’s top-rated recruiting class, and while he remained with the Blue Devils for only a short time, he left an indelible mark on the program’s storied history. A dominant 6-foot-11 big man, he averaged 17.3 points, 8.5 rebounds and 1.4 blocked shots per game in his one-and-done 2014-15 season while scoring in double figures in 35 of his 38 college games — including his first 28.

He became the first freshman ever to be named ACC Player of the Year and finished second to Wisconsin’s Frank Kaminsky in the voting for the Wooden Award as the nation’s best player. Okafor got the best of Kaminsky where it counted most, however, by helping Duke beat Kaminsky’s Badgers for the fifth national championship in school history. He then went on to be taken third overall in the 2015 NBA Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers.

Power forward — Zion Williamson (Duke): No incoming freshman, perhaps in the history of college basketball, received as much hype before ever playing his first college game as Williamson. And despite the seemingly unreasonable expectations, he still managed to live up to it. Built like a defensive end at 6-foot-6, 285 pounds with the athleticism and agility of a gymnast, Williamson averaged 22.6 points, 8.9 rebounds, 2.1 steals and 1.8 blocks per game on the way to becoming the 2018-19 National Player of the Year.

For all he accomplished on the court, perhaps the most memorable moment of his one-and-done season came when he blew out a shoe, injuring his knee, just 36 seconds into Duke’s rivalry game against UNC. Williamson sat out the final five games of the regular season and, despite calls for him to protect his status as the future No. 1 overall NBA pick by remaining on the sidelines, returned to the court to win MVP honors at the ACC Tournament.

Small forward — T.J. Warren (NC State): A second-generation Wolfpacker whose father played for coach Norm Sloan in the late 1970s, the 6-foot-8 Raleigh native was the ACC’s Player of the Year and a consensus All-American in 2013-14 — the second of his two seasons at State.

Warren averaged 24.9 points and 7.1 rebounds per game that season, posting nine games of 30 or more points along the way. His two best games were the final two of his college career, a 41-point performance against Pittsburgh followed by a 42-point outburst against Boston College.

He shot 67% from the floor in those games (30 of 45) and finished his career with a field goal percentage of .525. Warren left after his sophomore year and was taken by the Phoenix Suns with the 14th overall pick in the NBA Draft.

Shooting guard — Chris Clemons (Campbell): Had Clemons been a few inches taller, he probably would have played at an ACC school and become a household name because of his shooting ability and an impressive 44-inch vertical leap.

But because Clemons is only 5-foot-9, he was passed over by all the big boys and ended up playing at Campbell — where he became the most prolific scorer in college basketball from 2015-19. He set a single-game Big South tournament record with 51 points as a sophomore, became his school’s all-time leading scorer as a junior and led the nation in scoring as a senior while finishing his career with 3,225 points — the third-most in college basketball history behind LSU’s Pete Maravich and Portland State’s Freeman Williams.

Despite going undrafted, he continued his high-scoring ways during the NBA’s Summer League, helping him earn a free agent contract with the Houston Rockets.

Point guard — Joel Berry (UNC): Berry’s statistics might not have been as impressive as some other players during the decade, but no one was more clutch in big games or more valuable to his team’s success as the 6-foot Tar Heel floor leader.

Berry quarterbacked UNC to back-to-back Final Fours and the 2017 national championship despite playing with two sprained ankles — a game in which his 20 points and six assists gave him a hand in 48 percent of his team’s scoring against Gonzaga. He won MVP awards in both the ACC Tournament and NCAA Tournament, was twice named to the All-NCAA Tournament team, and became the first player since Bill Walton in 1972-73 to score 20 or more points in consecutive national championship games.

Berry’s scoring average improved in each of his four seasons with the Tar Heels, with a high of 17.1 points per game as a senior. He participated in 109 wins and finished his career as one of just four UNC players to amass at least 1,800 points, 400 rebounds and 400 assists.

Bench: Center, John Collins (Wake Forest); Power forward: Marvin Bagley III (Duke); Small Forward, Harrison Barnes (UNC); Shooting guard, Grayson Allen (Duke); Marcus Paige (UNC)